hot spots

Protect Your Dog From Itchy, Painful Hot Spot

In Animal Health, Dog Behavior, dog daycare owner, Dog Show, dog training, dog walker, Dogs, groomer, pet care professional, Pet First Aid, Pet Safety, pet sitter, Summer pet safety, Wound care by Cara Armour

By Arden Moore
Pro Pet Hero Instructor Director and Master Pet First Aid/CPR Instructor

Hot Spots

Canine coats come in all textures, from the double-coated Siberian husky to the silky Yorkshire terrier to the corded coat sported by the Komondor. What all dogs do share in common is that regardless of the type of coat, the skin represents the largest organ. And we need to keep it healthy.

When the skin gets attacked, irritating hot spots can surface. Veterinarians refer to hot spots as pyotraumatic dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis.

The main culprits include:

  • Allergic reaction to a new food or pollen
  • Flea bites
  • Ear infections
  • Failure to thoroughly dry the coat after swims or baths
  • Humidity
  • Stress triggered by loud noises or separation anxiety

All you know is that your dog feels absolutely miserable and is making matters worse by chewing, scratching and licking his irritated skin.

Treating Hot Spots

If caught at the early stages, here are some first aid tips:

  • Fit your dog with a medical collar or cone to prevent him from reaching the hot spot.
  • Carefully clip the hair around the hot spot. Hair follicles can interfere with drying and healing and can cause your dog more skin pain.
  • Take gauze squares or cleansing pads soaked in chlorhexidine and gently clean the hot spot. Chlorhexidine acts as an antiseptic and disinfectant and it does not sting the skin. Do not apply Neosporin, hydrocortisone or Vaseline on the affected skin area. If your dog licks these items, it can cause vomiting, diarrhea and an upset stomach.
  • Then use a soft, clean cloth to thoroughly dry the area.

Reach out to your veterinarian. Your dog may need prompt veterinary treatment to stop the itch, the ooze and the red skin lesions to prevent secondary infections and skin ulcers.

After clipping the hair and cleaning the area on your dog’s skin, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-itch medicine, oral antibiotics and a medicated drying spray. Your dog may need steroids to reduce inflammation.

Preventing Hot Spots

As the weather heats up and humidity rises, this is a prime time of the year for hot spots. Do your best to reduce the risk of your dog contending with hot spots by:

  • Maintaining his flea and tick preventive medications year-round.
  • Regularly grooming your dog’s coat to remove excess undercoat and dead hair. For certain breeds, book appointments with a professional dog groomer.
  • Bathe your dog with veterinarian-approved shampoos and conditioners made to deliver relief for itchy, allergic skin.
  • Thoroughly towel dry your dog’s coat after he swims or after a bath. Dogs with double coats will also need you to use a handheld blow dry at medium heat to dry the coat.
  • Enrich your dog each day with mental and physical stimulation. Some dogs out of boredom or stress will bite and lick their skin excessively. Skip the food bowl once a week and have your dog hunt for his food from a puzzle toy.

The bottom line: hot spots do not go away on their own. Untreated, they only get worse. Get into the habit of performing a thorough head-to-tail health assessment each week on your dog so you can catch hot spots or other issues in their early stages for quicker, complete treatment.

Learn Pet First Aid

Learn more on ways to keep your cats and dogs safe by visiting Consider taking our veterinarian-approved online pet first aid/CPR course. Enter this code: CPR – ARDEN MOORE and receive a 10 percent discount! And, if you are interested in becoming a Pro Pet Hero instructor, please click on the BECOME AN INSTRUCTOR button on the home page for more details.